I think there is a difference between why players cheat and why teams cheat. A player will cheat to gain an advantage on the floor. Whether that be an elbow foul or through steroids, it’s all about better performance on the field of play. This is constant among players, always trying to vie for supremacy. But what about when sports businesses cheat, like the New England Patriots, when they videotaped opposing teams’ workouts? How does that compare to players cheating on the field? I think the cheating off the field is what would happen on the field if the refs weren’t there to immediately punish infractions. Cheating is part of human nature, it’s part of animal nature, it’s all part of competition. Sports is no different than life, except in life there are no referees.
Competition is inherent in all life, it’s how we survive. Through evolution, those who competed the best would live longer than those who did not. They would produce the most offspring in the longer life and would therefore pass that trait on. We are all related to the winners of early humanity. We are the descendants of those who could survive better than the others. It is in our instincts, it is in our blood. Sports is a great way to harness that spirit without the brutality of death that much natural competition engenders. We make up our rules and enforce them as best we can, but there will always be “cheating.” This is no less true in life than it is in sports.
How many of us have been pulled over for speeding, or got ticketed for parking violations? According to the rules of our society, we are cheating. If we weren’t, it wouldn’t be against the law. People set laws for the same reason sports set rules: to guide behavior. Since it is in our nature to compete, and competition is never fair, even in sports, it is necessary to make and enforce rules. It is the restraint on our natural competitive behavior. When sports teams spy on each other, they are pursuing a competitive advantage. It’s been happening as long as teams competed. Those with the most advantages win, it’s that simple. Whether it’s the basketball player sticking an elbow out on a pick and roll, or it is a scout watching the other team with a videocamera, the intent is always the same. It’s not always our proudest moments, but cheating is ubiquitous. No matter how hard we try, we can never cease to be humans.